The novel starts with the founding of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, in 1890 by Lordor Nordstrom, a Swedish immigrant to the United States. The novel is divided into sections that detail what happens during each decade. The first part of the novel details Lordor’s life and the life of the first settlers of the town. They allocate a graveyard, Still Meadows, to bury their dead, and elect Lordor to be mayor. In this section, Lordor also puts an advertisement in a Chicago newspaper to find a wife. They correspond back and forth, and eventually Katrina moves to Elmwood Springs and they marry and have two children. Lordor becomes a successful dairy farmer and gives the dairy to his nephew-in-law, Ander Swensen.